They’re there trust me.  If you look hard enough you might see them.

If you have experienced verbal and emotional abuse, you know what I am talking about.  The scars left behind long after you find your way out.  Scars that never fully heal.

They show themselves differently, invisible to the naked eye.  It’s that voice in your head that repeats the things your abuser said and did to you.  It’s second guessing yourself regarding the most basic things.  Things that you never gave a second thought at one point in your life.  It’s not participating in life in the way you used to.  It’s feeling afraid but not really knowing why.

I remember a friend saying, “You sure are nervous”.  Even though I had alluded to what I went through, it still didn’t register as to why I was the way I was.  It felt like a never-ending story that no matter how hard I tried, no one heard or understood. I stopped trying to explain.  

People don’t want to walk in your pain.  They are uncomfortable discussing the topic.  They don’t understand how you found yourself there.  Neither do you sometimes.

Know you are not alone.  So many women suffer in silence, not knowing where to turn.  When dealing with the invisible scars, I felt very alone.  I didn’t feel like I fit in with the traditional resources available to women like me.   I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. 

The turning point for me was twofold.  First, I remember telling my mother I only felt safe if I was locked inside the house, which really upset her.  That wasn’t her daughter.  Her daughter was generally always happy and heading off to one thing or another.  Second, I realized that if I did leave the house, I was afraid to go anywhere alone.  I’m not talking about work or the grocery store but social events or activities.  I’d wanted to go to a music festival where I knew I would know people but didn’t want to arrive alone.  I wanted to learn how to play golf but was afraid to go to the driving range alone to try it.  I knew it was silly.  But now I was different.  I felt different.  I reacted to situations differently.  That was when I realized I needed help.

Over time it got better with the help of a therapist and my mother’s gentle encouragement.  Eventually, I had cleared out enough of the negative thoughts to allow the good thoughts to grow.  

When I began to recognize myself, I started to push myself back out in the world.  It was hard, the scars were still healing.  But each time was easier and easier.  I started by going to the driving range by myself.  I went every day at first and practiced with a $5 bucket of balls.  Soon, I could drive that ball 200+ yards straight off the tee.  Every single time.  And it felt GOOD.  Soon I started feeling good in general.  I found a new skill that helped me get back on track and soon enough, I was good enough to play on a course.  While tennis is my first love, golf is a close second due to what it represents.  It got me back into life.

When working with my clients, I suggest trying something new for this very reason.  Choose something that interests you that you might enjoy.  This is often the first step to letting the positive thoughts take over.  You will find that people embrace other people who are trying to learn something new.   They will want to help you learn.  Soon you’ll have a new circle of friends, who know nothing of your invisible scars but like you for you, and you have your new activity in common.  When this happens, you are on your way to freedom from your past and on to your future.

 “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time, otherwise you will choke.”  

One step at a time, one bite at a time.  Celebrate the steps you are taking and take time to realize how far you have come.

As a result of my experiences I am passionate about helping women who are in, or have been in, similar situations.  This is why I share my story.  Know you are not alone.